Reading the Scripture in religious assemblies is an ordinance of God whereby He is honored and the church edified. It should be delivered distinctly, for it is a requisite that those who hear the Word should understand it, else it is to them as an empty sound of words.
1 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel.
2 And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.
3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.
4 And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.
5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:
6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
7 Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place.
8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
9 ¶ And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.
10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
11 So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved.
12 And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.
13 ¶ And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law.
14 And they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month:
15 And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.
16 ¶ So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim.
17 And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.
18 Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner.
Nehemiah 8:1-6 – J. Vernon McGee
Nehemiah 8:7 – J. Vernon McGee
Nehemiah 8:8-9 – J. Vernon McGee
Nehemiah 8:10-18 – J. Vernon McGee
Nehemiah 8 – New Light from God’s Law
Surely this was the first public Bible-reading! When will the people be again as hungry for the Word of God as these Jews who stood in the open space from early dawn till the scorching noon? What reverence for the Word! When Ezra opened the Book, all the people stood up. What holy worship! When he blessed the great God, all the people answered, Amen, amen! What a model to us all! They gave the sense, so that they understood. What searching of heart! The people wept when they heard the words of the law.
There is nothing which weakens us so much as does unrestrained remorse. Contriteness of heart is wholesome and helpful, but excessive grief incapacitates us for our duties. It is well therefore to cultivate holy joy; the joy of sin forgiven, of acceptance with God, of hope that anchors us to the unseen, and that cannot be ashamed. You may not be able to joy in yourself or your surroundings, but you may always rejoice in the Lord. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Nehemiah 8:10—The joy of the LORD is your strength.
“The sad heart tires in a mile,” is a frequent proverb. What a difference there is between the energy of the healthy, joyous heart and the forced activity of the morbid and depressed One! The one leaps to its task, the other creeps to it. The one discovers its meat and drink in self-sacrifice, the other limps, and stoops, and crawls. If you want to be strong for life’s work, be sure to keep a glad heart. But, be equally sure to be glad with the joy of the Lord. There is a counterfeit of it in the world, of which we must beware—an outward merry-making, jesting, and mad laughter, which hides an aching and miserable heart. Solomon compares the joy of the world to the crackling of thorns under a pot, which flare up with great speed, but burn out before the water in the pot is warm.
Ours must be the joy of the Lord. It begins with the assurance of forgiveness and acceptance in the Beloved. It is nourished in trial and tribulation, which veil outward sources of consolation, and lead us to rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus. It is independent of circumstances, so that its possessors can sing in the stocks. It lives not in the gifts of God, but in God Him self. It is the fruit of the Spirit, who begets in us love, joy, peace, long-suffering. Get the Lord Himself to fill your soul, and joy will be as natural as the murmur of a brook to its flow.
And such joy will always reveal itself to others. You will desire to send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared. Your joy will be contagious; it will shed its kindly light on sad and weary hearts. As Rutherford said, we have a new heaven in the heaven of every soul we bring there. —Our Daily Homily
Nehemiah 8:10 – The mass of Christians make a little dark world of their own, and live there. They build the walls of their houses out of their troubles and sorrows. They put stained glass in their windows. They keep the doors locked. It is all dark about them. No sunshine comes into their chambers, and no fire burns on the hearth. They have no pictures on their walls but the pictures of their dead joys. And there they live, from year to year, in gloom and sadness, because they will not let God’s sunshine in. I meet many persons who can talk for hours of their troubles, sorrows and cares, who seem to forget that God ever made a flower, or a star, or a sunbeam, or did a single kind, tender thing for them. (J.R. Miller)